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A reminder on the importance of examining warranties

On Sept. 5, I purchased an electric bike from on a 30-day, free-trial basis. After assembling the bike, it was not up to my expectations, so I disassembled it and packed it back in the original box. I called OmegaStores for an approval number in order to ship it back and placed the number on the box as requested.

The bike was shipped Sept. 26. The shipper attempted delivery, but the box was refused. The reason given was that the merchandise was damaged. The shipper opened the box at its loading dock and found the contents in good condition.

When I got home Sept. 29, there was a letter stating that OmegaStores had received the merchandise, but it was broken and I should place an insurance claim with my shipping company. I can't make out a claim since I don't know the replacement costs for parts, etc.

As of mid December, the bike is being held by the shipper, incurring daily dock charges. I have placed several calls and e-mails to OmegaStores to resolve this situation and have yet to hear back. Andrea Johnson

Response: Gabe Smatko with Monica LLC-OmegaStores in Wallingford, Conn., said you have already contacted several other sources in an effort to get your money refunded, and now it is Action's turn. You purchased the bike and had 30 days to try it out. It was returned during this period, he said. However, it was rejected because of damage. The notation "Damaged . . . refused . . . package crushed . . . Styrofoam broken . . . contents broken" was written on the delivery paper by the shipping company driver after the package and contents were inspected on the truck. You, in fact, included a copy of this with your complaint.

He said you were informed of the damage and told it was your responsibility to make arrangements with your shipping company to have the necessary claim form sent to you. At the time of your online purchase, you agreed that the bike could be returned within 37 days under the following conditions: if you got a return authorization number (you did); if the product had no damage, scratches or sign of use (it was damaged); and if it was properly packed and insured. Furthermore, the agreement stated that "in case of damage or shortage, customer as the shipper must arrange for inspection and file for claim as no credit will be made . . . to the customer's account. In such case the insurance shall compensate the customer."

We took a look at the warranty and return policy on, and it is as Smatko stated. At this point your only hope for a refund is to follow the company's instructions to file a claim with the shipper. We did not see any evidence that you insured the bike for its return journey and can only hope that you did so.

We're sorry we did not get the outcome you desired, but your situation does point out how necessary it is to familiarize yourself with the warranty and return policies as well as your rights and responsibilities before making a purchase, whether online, by phone or in person.

Visa statements deciphered

I received a statement from my Circuit City Visa card dated July 24 saying that if the promotional payment of $360.07 was paid by Aug. 12, the finance charge would be waived. The $360.07 was paid by Aug. 4. Not only did the credit card not deduct the $292.71 finance charge, but on Aug. 25, it added a second finance charge of $294.63. I did get two credits totaling $294.63, but the original finance charge of $292.32 has not been deducted. As of Aug. 4, there should have been a zero balance until Aug. 11, when I made a new purchase for $529.98 and another for $45.56 on Aug. 30. Can you help me straighten this out? Paul Rochner

Response: Gabe Dalusky, customer relations specialist with First North American National Bank in Kennesaw, Ga., a subsidiary of Circuit City Stores, said records show you made two purchases on Aug. 5, 2002, totaling $2,717.77. One of these purchases ($39.99) was posted to your account as a regular interest-bearing purchase. As a result, your account was assessed finance charges on this portion of the balance, and it was not included in your promotional payoff caption on each billing statement. He said finance charges of $294.64 were applied to your account in error and credited back Sept. 11.

The problem, we believe, is that you are looking only at the promotional summary on your statement. This applies only to the balance of that interest-free purchase you made in August 2002. Your July 24 statement does indeed show the promotional payoff balance as $360.07. However, that is not the total balance on your account.

If you look at the summary of your account in the upper left-hand corner of your statement, you will see that your balance on July 24 was $674.43. By paying off the balance of $360.07, you were saving yourself $292.71 in finance charges that would otherwise have accrued to the promotional purchase. While you were charged $294.63 in interest, this was an error, and the amount was credited back to you.

The only finance charges you are paying are for purchases that were not part of an interest-free promotion. If this is still unclear to you, we suggest you take a look at your statements from August 2002 until the present, paying attention to the account summaries, and not just the promotional payoff information.

Action solves problems and gets answers for you. If you have a question, or your own attempts to resolve a consumer complaint have failed, write Times Action, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or call your Action number, (727) 893-8171, or, outside of Pinellas, toll-free 1-800-333-7505, ext. 8171, to leave a recorded request.

Requests will be accepted only by mail or voice mail; calls cannot be returned. We will not be responsible for personal documents, so please send only photocopies. If your complaint concerns merchandise ordered by mail, we need copies of both sides of your canceled check.

We may require additional information or prefer to reply by mail; therefore, readers must provide a full mailing address, including ZIP code. Names of letter writers will not be omitted except in unusual circumstances.